Ardmore Music Hall Promises Multigenerational Appeal for Concert-Goers and Music Fans
With the new Ardmore Music Hall, a local promoter relives past glories with an eye on the future.
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In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the narrator tells Jay Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past.” Gatsby’s reply: “Why of course you can!”
Rich Kardon can relate. In concert with fellow local music insiders Bryan Dilworth and Joe Rufo, the well-traveled concert promoter is taking his own stab at recreating the past, opening the new Ardmore Music Hall in the former Brownies 23 East space on Sept. 12.
The move is more than a little reminiscent of his last brick-and-mortar venture, the Point in Bryn Mawr. In fact, early on, the partners considered naming the new enterprise the Point at 23 East. For Kardon, it would have concisely combined his musical histories. There was the Point, which lasted from 1998 to 2005, and was named in tribute to its predecessor, the Main Point. That club flourished just two doors away on Lancaster Avenue between 1964 and 1981. Kardon’s current company is Point Entertainment, where he partners with Jesse Lundy in booking acts for the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, several outdoor summer concert series, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. And when he was with Cornerstone Management, Kardon spent seven years in the second-floor office space above 23 East—so that’s another homecoming of sorts.
“I’m not at all living in the past,” insists Kardon in an interview at Saxbys Coffee in Haverford, just days before inking the deal to finalize the new venue. “But it’s the closest I can come to having what we had. It’s always easier for me to talk about the past because the past is concrete and the future is so virtual.”
Kardon’s baseball cap advertises rebel singer/songwriter Steve Earle, perhaps a hint of the headliners to come at the new venue. “It will have a new name and personality,” says Kardon, his eyes semihidden behind round tortoise-shell reading glasses.
Located in the shadow of Suburban Square, Ardmore Music Hall seats 200-250 and can accommodate up to 600. Point Entertainment and Dilworth’s Bonfire Booking will share booking responsibilities and consult on marketing and branding. Rufo—who’d sold 23 East and has since returned to the historical musical landmark—will be responsible for day-to-day operations. “It’s not our point to make it look the same [as the Point],” says Kardon, “but it’s based on the same core values.”
Now 61 and living in Wynnewood, Kardon has come full circle with the Ardmore Music Hall. Once the tour manager for iconic area band the Hooters, he has since sought out the closeness, continuity and relationships he once thought he could only get on the road. Later, when he opened the Point, he’d briefly recouped those missing parts, before losing them again.
Since closing that venue, Kardon has fielded daily inquiries about recapturing its living-room vibe. “It was a special place at a specific point in time,” he says.
When some arrived at the Point for the first time, they thought they were at the storied Main Point. Kardon would carefully redirect them.
Push finally came to shove at the Point when the building’s landlord wouldn’t allow a liquor license. His rationale: Too many existing taprooms. He also had 12 upstairs apartments he needed to keep rented.
The Point was profitable, but the room had maxed out its revenue potential. Acts wanted more and more of the take, and expenses were on the rise. When it came time to renegotiate the lease, the two-year offer wasn’t attractive enough.
Today, Kardon maintains his unwaver-ing support of performers and audiences—and that loyalty has been returned many times over. Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel first split a $6 ticket 60/40 at the Point. Once Kardon heard him play and was blown away, he turned over 100 percent of the door. The Avett Brothers started as a $100 opening act there. The group is now playing the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 14.